With just two weeks before a “symbolic groundbreaking” for
Chicagoland’s proposed third airport takes place, a coalition of South
Side and south suburban ministers showed up at Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago
office Friday morning publicly urging the governor to buy more land for
“The Abraham Lincoln Airport represents probably the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetime to make [the south suburban area] a better place for our children and our children’s children,” said Rev. Dr. James Hunt.
As supporters of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission,
or ALNAC, the clergymen joined a group of representatives from about 25
Illinois communities for a “public-private partnership” which would
oversee the operations and construction of Chicagoland’s third major
The religious leaders say the airport will help create jobs in south Chicagoland communities by attracting more businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and other retail services.
“When the city of Chicago tore down the public housing on the South Side the people moved, but the money didn’t,” said Pastor Carl L. White Jr., who works in Markham, Illinois. “They moved to the south suburbs. Our police department took a strain, our hospital emergency rooms took a strain, and our classrooms had more students. We need an economic engine.”
Here's more from Friday's press conference:
Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago), whose newly restructured 2nd district
includes the proposed site of the airport, recently made the project a
cornerstone of his successful primary election campaign, which he handily won against opponent Debbie Halvorson last month.
Jackson’s chief of staff Rick Bryant, who is also the executive director of ALNAC, told Progress Illinois that the April 21 groundbreaking ceremony could be seen as a way of applying pressure on the state to move forward with the airport.
But it remains unclear as to when actual construction could begin on a third Chicago aiport.
“We need about 134 parcels of land to complete the project, and to date we’ve got about 57 percent, which is about 76 parcels,” said Quinn’s press secretary Brooke Anderson. “We will start construction when all the necessary pieces are in place.”
Some of those necessary pieces include approved permits from the Federal Aviation Administration and deciding who will have control over the airport. Officials from Will County, which includes south suburban Peotone, have opposed Jackson’s ALNAC plan citing ethics violations and a desire to keep the airport in local hands.
While Will County Executive Larry Walsh did not respond to phone calls or emails by deadline, last month he told the Chicago Tribune he will only support a Will County controlled airport.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has voiced his opposition to a third airport. His recently released $7.3 billion infrastructure plan includes private funding for a fourth runway at O’Hare International Airport, which he said will provide enough capacity to eliminate the need for another airport.
Anderson said the state has been working with all parties including Congressman Jackson and Will County officials to move the south suburban airport project along, but declined to give specific details on how the discussions are going.
“We are working with all the interested communities on how the airport will be governed,” Anderson said. “Governance continues to be an issue and we’re working to accommodate all the concerns and interests. But we’re moving full speed ahead.”